Arsenal vs Manchester City: Tactical Analysis | Premier League 2023/24

By afcaarush
9 Min Read

Manchester City’s dominance against Arsenal in the league was finally broken after 8 long years.

Man City had 4 shots with only 1 on target, which recorded as the fewest ever by the Pep Guardiola’s side since he made the move to England. The match was a great answer from Arsenal considering how leaky they’ve been in conceding goals at the Emirates off late.

A result which will be etched in the hearts of many Arsenal fans considering how good the Gunners played tactically and went toe to toe with one of the best in Europe.

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Let’s take a look at an in-detail tactical analysis of how Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal took all through points against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.


First Half:

That line-up screamed retention and it showed in the beginning of the game, as Man City kept the majority of the ball. Manchester City buildup initially with a 2-3-5, both fullbacks (Walker and Gvardiol) held the width of the pitch.

Pic 1 Initial formation Arsenal OOP with Citys wide FBs

Arsenal defended in a 4-4-2 block which was then transitioned into a man-to-man press, the compact OOP means the integral aim by Mik Arteta was to minimise Man City’s central progression.

The Gunners’ press made it difficult for City to progress. Man City tried using 2 options multiple times; Ederson’s long ball playing ability and playing through the wide areas. Arsenal came back to that with an aggressive press.

Rice was often made to cover both Lewis and Alvarez. His ability to sniff out dangerous runs was again the impressive part of his display. White focused more on Foden in central areas which left Gvardiol more space to attack, but those you wouldn’t want Gvardiol in that space if you are City, and the Gunners were quick to respond to cover those spaces. Arsenal quickly transformed into a back 5 with Jesus being the extra man. Something Saka does quite often.

Pic 2 Gabriel Jesus defensive tracking to cover space for Gvardiol as White gets tight to Foden

Haaland was invisible throughout the game. Arsenal’s centre-backs, Saliba and Gabriel made life hell for him. He could barely touch the ball, Saliba actually bullied him. Erling Haaland accumulated 0.00(xG) against Arsenal. At the Emirates last season, City’s out ball was to Haaland. When Arsenal’s press bothered them, they would go long to the Norwegian. The Arsenal CBs cleverly used their body in the duels, with Haaland struggling as a result.




Pic 3, 4, 5: Saliba getting tight to Haaland

One noticeable rotation in the game was that of Jorginho-Zinchenko and Rice. When Zinchenko inverted, Jorginho acted as the RCB which pushed White higher up the right side. When Jorginho played through the middle, White acted as the RCM and Zinchenko held the width. This created options for build-up and found players.

Rice advancing as the #8 or a more advanced LCM, gave both Jorginho and Zinchenko to come into the central areas. Rice ate up the ground too easily. He covers spaces so quickly that you actually can’t think of any competitors to him. Especially his ball recoveries.

These 3 were key in breaking City’s press and block. Rice often received the ball with his runs forward and opened up access to Nketiah. The flexibility of all 3 were key here.

Arsenal’s extra man Raya looked a bit nervy at the start of the match. He tried playing obvious risky balls through the middle of the pitch which ended up creating dangerous chances for City in the 1st half.

Man City focused on attacking through the central areas with Rico Lewis being the extra man, while Arsenal tried to attack through the wide areas, particularly Jesus and Gvardiol.

Second Half:

Arsenal had conserved their energy in the first half owing to their out-of-possession nature. After the break, Arteta went with a more aggressive approach which saw them go man to man in many instances.

Pic 6 Arsenal man to man pressing in second half

Martinelli’s introduction straight away into the half gave Arsenal more energy going into the game. His transitional play helped breaking apart defences. This made the game more balanced considering Jesus was the only option going forward in the first half.

Pep brought in a triple substituation of Doku, Stones and Nunes. They then transitioned into a 4-2-3-1. Doku tried creating 1v1 situations on both flanks but White and Zinchenko were well aware of the threat and defended well.

Arteta then responds with a triple change of his in Tomiyasu, Havertz, Partey. All 3 gave the team a defensive backing.
These 4 subs were then the game changers as they all had a direct impact on the lone goal against City.

Partey was hinted to lob in a long ball by Ødegaard, Tomiyasu quickly spotted the vision and made a run forward. He then won the header as Martinelli kept Walker on the width of the pitch. Havertz’s hold-up was key as he put his physicality in blocking the ball and forcing it into Martinelli’s path which resulted in the goal.

Pic 7 Arsenal build up to the goal

When Arsenal led 1-0, City pushed their midfield higher to gain press, Raya did his job perfectly here and played long balls knowing it was easier to do that and not win the 2nd ball with Rice.

Gabriel and Saliba’s positioning is something to keep an eye on. They went compact but as soon as City press them in a in a narrow manner they create more space for themselves and create a doubt of position which ends up creating open spaces centrally on which they can pounce on.

Partey alongside Rice could be the new thing in big games, with much more balance. In small games, you could get away with 2 #8s.

Havertz movements are quite interesting too. As soon as Arsenal plays a back pass, City’s back line moves further up but Havertz is clever as he’s always been that False 9 type. He was a more viable option up front, he controlled a number of direct passes and played like a traditional target man.

As soon as Arsenal passes the ball to the wide zones he pins the Man City CBs and also when the City backline is higher and Raya plays long, he makes diagonal runs and the ability to move in behind the defence to avoid being offside and maintain ball possession.

Pic 8 David Raya using Havertz as an outlet

It’s important to know that his job is to be the receiver of the press and not the ball.

It’s also key to know that the fierce attack of last season consisting of Martinelli-Jesus-Saka haven’t started a single game as yet this season.

Not very often you see City lose two games in a row in the league and Arsenal made it happen. They need to take that momentum going forward and continue their unbeaten form in the league

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